WHO has joined WhatsApp to answer all your coronavirus questions, bust fake news: Here’s everything to know

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Updated: Mar 23, 2020 12:48 PM

The WHO will provide ‘accurate’ information about the deadly virus on WhatsApp in the form of an automated system or chatbot, available round-the-clock, at +41-798931892.

whoThe automates system is simply called ‘WHO Corona Info’ and is a verified destination for all information concerning COVID-19. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has joined popular instant messaging platform WhatsApp to “provide you with the latest information and guidance from the WHO on the current outbreak of coronavirus disease [Covid-19] that was first reported on 31 December 2019.” The WHO, which has already declared coronavirus COVID-19 a pandemic, will provide ‘accurate’ information about the deadly virus on WhatsApp in the form of an automated system or chatbot, available round-the-clock, at +41-798931892.

The automated system is simply called ‘WHO Corona Info’ and is a verified destination for all information concerning COVID-19 divided into six categories. These include –

1.Latest numbers

2.Protect yourself

3.Your questions answered

4.Mythbusters

5.Travel advice

6.News and press

Plus, there’s also an option to share relevant information with your near and dear ones and donate to the WHO’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.

Since, it’s an automated system, you’ll have to text in numbers and emojis to get the kind of information you need. All information is updated frequently in order to provide the latest facts and figures. The ‘Your questions answered’ and ‘Mythbusters’ categories are particularly important, at a time when misinformation about COVID-19 is spreading like wildfire on WhatsApp and can be as dangerous as the virus itself. There is no official cure for novel coronavirus right now and yet several remedies have been found to be circulating on WhatsApp.

There is a lot of false information around. These are some of the facts, according to WHO:

-People of all ages CAN be infected by the coronavirus. Older people, and people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease) appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus.

-The coronavirus CAN be transmitted in areas with hot and humid climates.

-The coronavirus CANNOT be transmitted through mosquito bites.

-Taking a hot bath DOES NOT prevent the coronavirus.

-Spraying alcohol or chlorine all over your body WILL NOT kill viruses that have already entered your body.

-Garlic is healthy but there is NO evidence from the current outbreak that eating garlic has protected people from the coronavirus.

-Antibiotics DO NOT work against viruses, antibiotics only work against bacteria.

Even as coronavirus continues to wreak havoc around the world, at a blistering pace, it’s important to stay calm and not panic, and certainly not believe every random thing you receive on WhatsApp – without verification.

“Digital technology gives us an unprecedented opportunity for vital health information to go viral and spread faster than the pandemic, helping us save lives and protect the vulnerable. Partners like Facebook and WhatsApp, that are supporting us in reaching billions of people with important health information,” Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO said in a statement.

Remember, Facebook and WhatsApp are the same platforms that also act as potential catalysts for spreading of fake news. It was about time, Facebook and WhatsApp (which is owned by Facebook) fought back. Elsewhere, WhatsApp has also committed $1 million to Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) to help curb fake news relating to the pandemic on the instant messaging platform.

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